Features to look for in a wood burning stove or outdoor fireplace

Prometheus may have given humans fire, but wood has long provided the fuel. For millennia, we’ve used wood as a fuel source because it’s abundant and produces plenty of energy.

Burning wood, however, can also lead to air pollution. Throughout the country, these concerns have led local governments to enact “no burn” periods, which can span months in some places.

But Prometheus never had the technologies we have here in the 21st century. Modern outdoor fireplaces and wood stoves burn clean and radiate heat more efficiently than any backyard fire pit, bonfire, or open fireplace.

For the many Americans who can’t enjoy open fires but want to, here’s what to look for in a modern, efficient outdoor fireplace or wood stove.

Some of today’s wood stoves are designed to generate less pollution than even a cigarette. These benefits are creating a new wave in wood stove interest and adoption in cities and urban areas. In a small space, a properly sized wood stove will provide ample warmth on less fuel than a traditional fireplace or conventional heating system.

EPA regulations, established in the mid-1990s, paved the way for higher efficiency in wood stoves. Today, EPA-certified wood stoves boast 50 percent greater efficiency than the wood stoves of the past, and contribute 70 percent less pollution. Wood stoves fronted with SCHOTT ROBAX® glass-ceramic burn 26 percent hotter and use 43 percent less wood compared to open systems.

A new wave of EPA regulations may require manufacturers to produce even more efficient stoves, while incentive programs entice homeowners to upgrade to efficient wood stoves. These change-out partnerships, often between the industry and federal agencies and local governments, help homeowners swap out less-efficient stoves and fireplaces with newer models that cut particulate emissions and improve heat transfer efficiency.

Everyone wants fireplaces – even outdoors

Outdoor rooms are rivaling the great room as the epicenter of entertaining. And what do we want in this outdoor space? A fireplace: It’s the most popular element in an outdoor room, according to Hearth and Home Magazine.

But we’ve also wised up – we want a fire’s warmth without the smoke and pollution. And our aim is relaxation, so getting up to toss log after log onto a fire isn’t ideal. So many outdoor room owners are choosing a closed fireplace, fronted with a pane of glass-ceramic to liven up and spread warmth throughout a space.

These transparent panels, often made with ROBAX glass-ceramic, provide perfect views of the fire while trapping roughly 35 percent of the heat radiation and reflecting it back into the combustion chamber. The trapped heat leads to better combustion of the wood, so the fire burns hotter and cleaner. As the wood burns hotter, that piece of glass-ceramic keeps guests cozy by evenly radiating heat throughout the outdoor space.

In the future, coatings on the glass can make the process more efficient so half of the heat is reflected into the firebox.

Better materials have expanded the design possibilities. Modern wood stoves range from traditional designs to a contemporary modular concept to a bare-bones look. These outdoor elements are functional while elevating the design of any room. In fact, many wood stoves act as the focal point of a living space.

The alluring, always-in-demand home feature

Fireplaces and wood stoves have the power of drawing us closer. But old fireplaces and wood stoves are far from perfect, and are known to be dirty and inefficient.

Thankfully, technology has made closed fireplaces and wood stoves cleaner and more efficient (and proper cleaning and maintenance will keep them burning cleanly and efficiently for many seasons, too). Glass-ceramic fronts radiate heat better than other materials, and reflects heat back for a hotter and cleaner fire. Combine these benefits with new industrial designs, and it’s apparent why fireplaces and wood stoves remain beloved.

December 8, 2016


Kim Kennell
Home Tech
SCHOTT North America, Inc.